Why would regular people not know what the rich people on Earth looked like?

Setting details:

I'm writing a story in which Earth is basically turning into trash. Not quite Wall-E level trash yet but it's getting there. Earth has become a huge city-planet of giant skyscrapers, much like Coruscant. Each skyscraper goes down to what is now 12,000 feet below sea level and up to 20,000 feet above sea level. Yes this would crush itself and stuff but hey it's 3061, and they've had a long time to fix this. The skyscrapers are about a quarter mile wide and long and are where most people live and work and die. Also there are Mars and Moon colonies but those are unimportant for this question.

Now due to all these skyscrapers, somebody created a tree replacement to keep the air fresh so we don't all die, though they keep some around natural trees in parks because they're pretty. This keeps the air mostly clear and allows us to get sunlight.

There are three main levels to these skyscrapers: the Up Above, the In Between, and the Down Under. Up Above is where the rich people live and work and die. In Between is where the Average Joes live and work and die; and Down Below is where all the poor people & criminals live. Trash just gets tossed off buildings and falls to Deep Down Under where nobody ever returns from. Anywhere in Down Under never sees sunlight. The lower you are in In Between, the less Sun you'll see. My MC, e.g., has only seen the Sun 18 times, while the people Up Above get pretty much the same Sun we do now, about ten hours a day depending on weather and the time of year.

Also relevant, between Up Above and In Between there are five levels of extremely fortified and well trained soldiers to keep people from busting through to Up Above.

Anyway, for plot reasons, these rich people decided they needed to be very different than the people below, and figured they should alter their appearance. So after some time, the rich people now have wings. Imagine Maleficent, dnd solar creature, or any MTG angel type. And they also have magical powers. Also for plot reasons, the people in In Between and Down Under can't know about these wings because it needs to be a surprise later in the story, which leads to the question:

Why would the rest of the world not know what the rich people looked like?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting basis for a question, but I can easily see how folks will view this as story based or opinion based and VTC with good reason. You yourself admit that the nature of them Up Above needs to be kept secret for reasons of plot. That's basically you just shooting yourself in the foot, because the answer is Narrativity: essentially, you can pick any rationale out of your authorial hat and that's the answer. Here in Worldbuilding, we'd really be more... $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Dec 23, 2020 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) ... interested in viewing your world & your query from the perspective of the world itself, its fundamental underpinnings, and what makes it go. So you might want to consider adding a piece to your question that focuses on the nature of the world (i.e., the culture as it has evolved) that will lead to the desired outcome. You might also want to consider adding some criteria by which you'll judge an answer as satisfactory. As written, just about anything can be justified, making this an opinion based query and thus off topic. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Dec 23, 2020 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ People below would never personally see a person from above, or they have no idea how a person from above look like? The former is much better achievable than the latter. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 23, 2020 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ You have pretty much described a Warhammer 40k Hive city. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Dec 23, 2020 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ Can't you use sth else instead of wings? Some winged dolt will fall off the battlements sooner or laters and be found downstairs. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Dec 23, 2020 at 21:29

5 Answers 5


The Down Below Internet is censored

If the people up above never travel down and the down below folks are never allowed up, all interaction is through middle-layer folks. Those folks will spin any number of tales that will sound like nonsense. But information spreads through Internet easily... unless you really do have a proactive censorship bot that monitors down below IP Addresses and filters the content. Images of up-abovers are fuzzed or removed. In other words: the information is deliberately suppressed.


The biggest reason that we know about what happens on other parts of the planet now is globalization and the internet, if the down below people don't have access to any of the sorts and the up above people don't mingle with people below their community there is no reason for them to know what they are up to. So basically just setup a simple scenario.

Or you could come up with a situation in which the winged humans are very secretive, or similar that would make the information flow very hard, but this depends on what importance you want to give to this aspect in your story.


Your population spend their free time in cyberspace using avatars

Life sucks, Your Aussies ("Down Under", right?) lives are full of trash and hard labour and need a way to unwind after a long day at the dust factory. You're inbetweeners are fighting to keep themselves out of the trash heap and need a few hours at the end of the day to unwind, and your uppers are sitting around in their gold palaces with every needed waited on by robots, and are feeling bored.

Nobody meets face to face any more - catching a lift for 1000 stories to access a sky-bridge to get to a neighbouring tower and then another 1000 stories - that could takes hours. Catch up in VR instead - the drinks are cheaper, that sexy outfit still fits, you don't need to shower or shave, and you don't need to get off the couch!

Avatars in cyberspace are whatever people want. Sure some have wings. Some are T-Rexes. Some are dancing babies. Some are talking cars. Some are 3d stick figures. Some are physically impossibly proportioned humans. Your avatar is whatever you want to draw / buy so people are presented how they want to be. Talking about the real world is a faux pas in cyberspace - people are here to escape, don't mention how horrible real life is.

There's a sick irony here: the Aussies are desperate to see daylight, the uppers are bored of it.


There are almost none of the rich people left.

There used to be a fair number back a generation or two ago, or that is what the old folks say. The poor folks assume that rich people just never come down. The truth is there is no-one to come down. Services and security for them are automated, and continue. Food and supplies are brought up there and the waste thrown down - it is good waste, because none of the stuff has been used (which can be a clue).

Now there are only a couple of rich people left and that is who shows up later in the story with the wings. These few folks with wings can use them but do not. They may or may not know each other. They are not easy to interact with. Something went seriously wrong with the rich people.

What happened to the rich people? That is a matter for your story.


Because the Up Abovers have been Deified

Your up abovers have so much power and control over those below that they have elevated themselves to godhood in the eyes of the commoners. However, to maintain this god-hood, they have taken a few pages out of human history and decided that their forms must be depicted to appeal to local populations of people to make them more relatable.

Take Jesus for example:

Jesus is often depicted to reflect both the ethnicity of the place he his painted, but also their cultural values. Likewise your abovers have chosen to make sure they are always depicted in the most culturally appealing way to those down below. This ensures that to those below, the abovers are perfect which in turn means that no one down below would want to rebel against them. If you are a warrior subculture, then you believe the abovers are heroic warriors and worthy champions to lead them. If you are a worker subculture, then you believe they are humble and serve the needs of everyone below them leading by their example of hard work. If you are a scholarly subculture then you believe they are ultimately intelligent and wise making their decisions above contestation.

The reason your protagonist does not believe they have wings is simply because focus groups from his his/her subculture found them off putting so using their absolute powers of censorship, the abovers removed all wings from the iconography that the protagonist would be familiar with.

Seeing an abover with wings would be about as surprising as a seeing an old testament depiction of an angel would be for the average Christian:

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